Four Fairfield towns among recipients of CTNext “Innovation Places” grants

By Kevin Zimmerman

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CTNext, the state program that seeks to build a robust community of entrepreneurs, accelerate startup growth, and create jobs throughout Connecticut, has awarded planning grants for its Innovation Places program to 12 communities, including Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford.

The grants, ranging from $24,000 to $50,000, are designed to allow communities to conduct a strategic planning process to better understand the relevant emerging conditions, risks and opportunities they face; to assess the capabilities the community needs; and to plan actions to leverage those capabilities.

The next phase of the Innovation Places program is the competitive implementation grant application, which will begin in November; awardees will be announced in June 2017.

Implementation grants will provide communities with a portion of the funding required to implement the master plan they developed as part of the initial grant. The program has earmarked $30 million over the next five years to augment private and public investments in programs and infrastructure.

“This effort will lead to new startup companies, more jobs, and the kind of economic growth we need,” said State Sen. Carlo Leone (D-27th), who said he met with Stamford officials, business leaders and educators throughout the summer to develop a strategy for encouraging new business growth in Stamford. “Stamford was the first community in Connecticut to host discussions on how to take advantage of this new innovation economy program,” he said.

Leone said his personal involvement with funding entrepreneurship and innovation comes from the hope that such activity will spark new technologies, which in turn will give rise to new economic drivers — “the foundation of the future. As these innovation hubs grow, the hope is that they produce small companies which in turn producer medium to large companies — the Googles of tomorrow,” he said.

Stamford’s involvement with the CTNext program is apparently unrelated to its recent decision to evict the Stamford Innovation Center. Leone said that the timing of the two events was coincidental: “Their current situation did not allow them to pay the rent that the city and the region were looking for,” he said. “But I hope we can still work with them, as well as other tenants who through this grant will likely take space” at 175 Atlantic St.

Other communities receiving grants were Hartford/East Hartford; Meriden; Middletown; Northeast Connecticut (including Tolland, Killingly, Putnam, Mansfield, Windham, Storrs and Willimantic); New Britain (including Farmington and Berlin); New Haven; Thames River (including New London and Groton); and Waterbury.

CTNext launched in 2012 and has more than 1,500 members in its network.

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